As fate would have it, Norman Lear gave Marta Kauffman, recipient of this year’s Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television at the PGA Awards, her first job in television development close to 35 years ago. The result was “The Powers That Be,” which Kauffman created with David Crane and Lear executive produced. The NBC sitcom aired for two seasons between 1992 and 1993.
Like Lear, Kauffman is prolific. In addition to “Friends,” she is responsible for co-creating “Dream On,” “Veronica’s Closet” and most recently, “Grace and Frankie.” During “Friends’ ” 10-season run between 1994 and 2004, the show received 62 Emmy nominations and won for outstanding comedy series in 2002.
When “Friends” came to a close, Kauffman admits that she was in “a state.” “That year David [Crane] and I decided, amicably, that we wouldn’t be writing together anymore,” Kauffman says. “I was also turning 50, my oldest daughter was going to college and I was going through menopause.”
While the time was “scary,” Kauffman ultimately discovered that she could successfully write without Crane and was good at creating and showrunning multi-camera sitcoms and single-camera comedies. Under her Okay Goodnight banner, which she founded with Robbie Tollin and Hannah K.S. Canter in 2015, Kauffman executive produced the 2019 documentary “Seeing Allred,” about women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred, and co-created Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin series “Grace and Frankie.”
The show, currently in production on its seventh and final season, has become one of Netflix’s longest-running original series to date. During the show’s run, Kauffman tried her hand at directing, which she says she wants to do more of, and co-wrote 12 episodes with Howard J. Morris. “The thing that I always tell writers is that you have to follow your heart,” Kauffman says. “A show will be better if you are passionate about it.”